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Gratitude Is More Than An Attitude

May 29, 2018 in

Would people describe you as grateful? Or are you only deliberately grateful when you celebrate Thanksgiving or during the holiday seasons? If the latter is true, you are not alone. One-off displays or seasonal feelings of gratitude occur more often than intentional efforts to generate a culture of gratitude at work and at home.

Gratitude is the state of being thankful. It’s an inclination to give and receive kindness or appreciation. Practicing gratitude regularly can significantly impact one’s life. Research shows that people who do so experience better sleep, lower depression rates, greater life satisfaction, better relationships, and better workplace performance.(1) Luckily, it’s easy to achieve these results. Researchers did so by simply having participants document five things they are grateful for daily.1 Gratitude practices flow through to the workplace as well. Having your employees regularly practice gratitude creates a work environment that promotes individual well-being, which ultimately improves company productivity.

There are two main obstacles that block our ability to acknowledge when we are grateful and how we express appreciation. First, humans naturally have a negativity bias that drives our attention to only the bad situations or memories.(5) For example, you might be more likely to share negative news about your day than focus on things that went well. Negativity biases are particularly prevalent when things go wrong, and it is more difficult to find things to be thankful for. The second obstacle we run into is the diversity in how we express gratitude.(2) Employees often have different preferences for how they show and receive appreciation. Accordingly, some individuals might feel most appreciated through recognition at a team meeting while others prefer private recognition with a card or one-on-one meetings. This variety in preferences makes it difficult for leaders to apply a one-size fits all strategy and may require more deliberate effort.

Here are three ways you and your team can foster a continuous culture of gratitude and combat those roadblocks that prevent us from being grateful daily –

  1. Encourage employees to keep a daily log of things they are grateful for and why they are grateful for those things. Each week during your team sync meetings, encourage your team to share what they wrote down. By sharing and discussing gratitude, you’re allowing that individual to relive the positive emotions from that experience.
  2. Construct a “companywide gratitude flow chart.”3 This tool visually portrays every single employee and their contributions through specifically written gratitude notes from the boss. As a leader, praising employees reinforces best practices by identifying successful methods and strategies.
  3. Create a survey to assess how your team would like to receive appreciation and how they tend to show it to others.2 Various members of your department might express or prefer to receive gratitude in one of the following ways: gifts/rewards, varying levels of recognition, training and development opportunities, increased responsibility, and/or team building activities. Understanding how your employees best receive appreciation allows you to leverage the power of gratitude to grow and nurture a positive workplace.

The more you express gratitude the more it is ingrained in your daily perceptions and thoughts. Dr. Robert Emmons points out that “the practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness… a person who experiences gratitude is able to cope more effectively with everyday stress.”(5) Work with your teams to make gratitude practices an automatic function of their workday. You will appreciate the results.

If you’re interested in the impact of gratitude and how to make it more of a practice amongst your team, feel free to reach out to HigherEchelon for more specific ideas.


  1. “Counting Blessings versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life,” available Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , Emmons & McCullough, 2003, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/pdfs/GratitudePDFs/6Emmons-BlessingsBurdens.pdf
  2. “How Might We Express Gratitude in the Workplace?”: available CultureIQ , Anna Lee, https://cultureiq.com/can-express-gratitude-workplace/
  3. “How to Create a Culture of Gratitude in the Workplace,” available Forbes, Karl Sun, December 18, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/karlsun/2017/12/18/how-to-create-a-culture-of-gratitude-in-the-workplace/#1192afd17a18
  4. “The Psychological Effects of Workplace Appreciation & Gratitude,” available Emergentics International, O.C. Tanner, https://www.emergenetics.com/blog/workplace-appreciation-gratitude/
  5. “Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier”, Dr. Robert A. Emmons, 2007